Thursday, 2 September 2010

E Numbers: An Edible Adventure

Another good spot of informative broadcasting from the BBC.  'E Numbers: An Edible Adventure' provided an intriguing look at E numbers and their use in our food:
  • Food writer Stefan Gates sets off on a three-part adventure to uncover the truth about those notorious food additives, E numbers. He wants to find out where these chemicals come from and what they actually do in our food.

    But he is in for some big surprises... Expecting to uncover a world of synthetic chemicals that are best avoided, Stefan learns that many are actually completely natural and could even be beneficial to our health.His journey begins with the E number colours. Stefan discovers why these chemicals don't just affect the look of our food but its taste as well. He learns what the colour in some of our cakes and sweets has to do with insects and flamingos and why some of the E number colours could have side-effects.

    Stefan also delves into the world of flavourings and reveals why eating monosodium glutamate could be no worse for you than eating cheese or mushrooms. He also gains rare access to the magical world of the flavourings industry which can transform your food beyond recognition. His final test sees him using E numbers to get vegetable-hating kids to eat their first brussel sprouts in years.
The program struck a good balance between entertainment and education.  There was a good blend of chemistry involved and had more than the odd novelty moment where Gate's attempted to make his own e-numbers using various bodily fluids.

One big gripe I had was with the presenter's attempt to eat as many e-numbers as he could over a period of time.  This was done under supervision of a doctor.  At the end of this 'trial' the doctor offered that the range and level of e-number consumption was no worry, but what was worrying was the amount of "sugar, salt and...."  TADAAAA "...fat" Gates had eaten.

At this point the doctor pulled back a curtain to reveal a display of how much sugar, salt and fat Gates would consume in a month if he pursued with his chosen diet. 

The first camera shot was of a plate of salt, a plate of sugar and a plate of butter (termed a "heart attack on a plate").  The camera fixed once more on each of the plates of sugar and salt, but a further three camera shots - all of greater length than any of the others, focused upon the mound of butter.

I am no chemist but I'd suggest that of the refined carbohydrate crap that the guy was eating, very little of the fat had a nutritional profile similar to butter.....It is a shame that such a discredited hypothesis should still be pushed.  Gates could easily have read this to find that saturated fat is not a problem.  Similarly he could have looked here to find that macro nutrient combination may be a significant factor in obesity.  Oh yeah, and the copious wheat snacks he was eating......well he might want to read this.

As a program, it still gets the cigar.  Currently it is available to watch again here.